October 3, 2012

Review – Pokémon Black Version 2

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:49 pm

Review Pokemon Black Version 2
For all the charms that have helped Pokémon endure consistent gamer love for so many years now, the visual seems to take priority. Starting a new adventure in the Unova region finds me without strategy or purpose, and once again choosing which of three Pokémon to start my roadtrip with based on visual affection – there was no contest by the way, Tepig or bust.

The formula is familiar and worn enough that I always feel a bit silly writing about a new entry, and yet each one is never long for stealing attention away from other releases. The first few hours proved unpredictable, insofar as I couldn’t have guessed which Pokémon might join my party along the way.

Certainly there are only a few waiting to be discovered in the first few steps between cities and earning gym badges, but which ones were claimed in the wild, and which of those would survive battles to evolve and stick around seemed delightfully random once again.

Pidove joined my party early, mostly owing to how amusing I find pigeons to be, and Lillipup tagged along as well because I favor Pokémon that resemble real world animals I suppose. Pidove’s gust attacks along with Tepig’s fire managed to claim two gym badges before I had to stop and consider expanding my roster. And then with one battle, when both of them had fallen, Lillipup jumped in to squeak out a victory and jump six levels at once owing to immense experience points that rained down on its small contribution.

Soon after I picked up a Liepard and Minccino, making a cat and mouse duo. Pidove evolved into Tranquill, and Tepig keeps trying to evolve but I won’t let him. The fact that I won’t let him speaks to the way the game gets under your skin. There’s no advantage to not allowing it, but he just wouldn’t be as cute. And when I realize I’m worrying about what would be cute, I have to worry once again about what this game is doing to my brain.

But it’s true, Tepig is terribly cute and wiggles when excited and is even cuter for it.

I’d like to say we’ve been running around the Unova region, but the truth is you can’t get more than ten feet in any direction without someone challenging you to a Pokémon fight. People just walk right up into your personal space and you have to throw down, which does wonders for stats but also has me frantically saving and buying supplies every few minutes.

I managed to get off the road for over an hour by visiting the Pokéstar Studios, where I got the curious opportunity to star in a Pokémon movie. Someone handed me a script and I checked my lines and the next thing I knew I was playing out a Pokémon battle for the cameras. And then like magic, I was able to walk over to the theatre and watch the film along with the audience reacting to the performance.

It was a marvelous distraction, and I found myself eagerly looking over scripts for more films and taking more roles, a bit struck by people in the theatre suggesting I was a star.

Pokémon celebrity has a way of going to the head quickly, maybe because after every encounter people are eagerly telling me what a great trainer I am and how they want to be just like me. It’s hard not to swagger into the next city hearing such nice things all the time.

Of course, every city has a habit of making you feel like a small fish all over again, particularly the scale of some of them. And the gym battles turn into events themselves, like fighting on a catwalk during a fashion show and having an audience watch as electric Pokémon take me down a notch.

Defeat makes me want to find a field somewhere and just walk around leveling up my team until I regain some confidence, but there really isn’t a lot of open spaces readily found in Unova. Everywhere I turn there are larger cities filled with people, with amusement parks, gyms, sporting stadiums, music venues, office buildings where people conduct dream research on Pokémon. And the binding theme is that all of these people are obsessed with Pokémon, making my hobo lifestyle a rather romantic pursuit to nearly everyone I encounter.

It can be a bit dizzying trying to grasp a point for moving forward. After all, there is no Princess to save and the world is not in any imminent danger – save for being slightly annoyed by the antics of Team Plasma to steal everyone’s Pokémon before the plot thickens down the road.

People keep reminding me that the journey is the point, traveling with my Pokémon to discover more of their kind and meet others equally enthralled and working to develop bonds with the creatures and their world. And so I keep traveling across the region, filling up the Pokédex with information on all the varied Pokémon I meet and writing a review that sounds as if it were written by a ten year old – who still gets phonecalls on the road from his mother to see where he is and how he’s doing.

But maybe that is the point of all this traveling – that the latest release of the game can drag me back in time that way and find me marveling at the people and places waiting around each turn. Of course, that would suggest that modern RPGs haven’t lost me simply because of my age, and that Pokémon research should represent some matter of priority for other developers.

It is a matter of age though, insofar as if you throw the door open to allowing me to have fun, I’ll start to forget my age as I sink into the experience. I’ll do silly things, like call the annoying recurring character from my hometown “douche” – grinning every time he meets someone new and hears them proclaim “Nice to meet you douche!” I could do the same thing in plenty of other games, but something about Pokémon draws it out where others don’t.

Maybe it’s because this is a game where you can still fight Rich Kid So-and-So, but who can say for certain?

What I am certain about is that when I’m meandering through words like this, I’ll often avoid adding a review score into the mix. But Pokémon Black Version 2 deserves a score to reflect its accomplishment – which is cramming in so much game that I actually want to experience. This is my desert island game, my best friend on the train, the game I plan to continue playing while laying in bed at night, the jelly in my donut, the cream in my coffee, and well, you get the idea.

Game Freak


Nintendo DS

Singleplayer, Multiplayer

Release Date
October 7, 2012

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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